I recently heard this compelling argument for the existence of god and want to know what you all think about it. The argument goes like this:

If there is no god and the world is an accident, if everything about people, including what they think and feel, is just the chance combination of molecules and is explained in terms of chemistry and physical laws, why be rational? On the basis of atheism, weeds grow because they are weeds and minds do just whatever they do. People act like they are free to think about different kinds of ideas and then choose the best one. On the basis of atheism, that's impossible. Our minds are just a bunch of atoms vibrating and will do whatever they have been programmed to do. If there is no god and the physical world is all there is, there is no logical basis for logic. But people, including atheists, do trust reason and logic even though they have no reason to assume that it works.

Any input you have is appreciated. 

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All logic has in common a demand for consistency and avoiding contradiction. It's the same for formal and informal logic.

And, interestingly, attempts to prove its invalidity generally seem to rely on it.

Indeed, proof by contradiction may be the most common sort of proof. (Trying to prove the opposite of what one wants to prove, results in a contradiction.)

Yes, I've certainly seen a number of those (reductio ad absurdam, I believe it's called, when people decide they need to start slinging Latin, reduced to absurdity is just as expressive).

But what I wanted to highlight was the inherent pointlessness of using logic to try to disprove the utility of logic to prove things.  Even if you show that logic ends up being self contradictory, the mere claim that that disproves logic...uses logic, since the law of non-contradiction is part of logic.

Neuroscience says there is no free will.  Signals which indicate a decision has been made can be detected before a subject is aware they have a made a decision.

Free will is an illusion.  Consciousness is an illusion.

That said, we are free to review our decisions, and think over things before the next time we have to make the same decision on the spur of a moment, thereby changing the decision we might otherwise have made.  So, in retrospect, free will and consciousness are quite real.

Hope that clarified things for you.

Interesting. But what do you think that says about reason and logic which are not spur of the moment decisions?

So Jeff, does your mind exist without your animal brain? That is the real question because if it does not then we can proceed to discuss reason and logic. If the mind exists outside of the brain, then we have so scientific basis to continue on.

I thought I was fairly clear.  When you have time to reflect and think, that is your opportunity to express free will and to apply your consciousness, however illusory it may be. Reason and logic apply when you have the time to apply them.

No...neuroscience does not say there is no free will. Some have postulated based on a dubious interpretation of a couple easilky criticised experiments...that free will might not be possible. That is not the same as saying free will doesn't exist. Sam Harris has famously published a slim book on the nonexistence of free will...where he claims free will doesn't exist and then tells us not to worry about it...as if we have any choice if we worry about it or not. He still needs to work some things out as do all rash people who dismiss free will with the "how could it exist"? argument. The landscape of research and theorising on free will is flooded with theories that say no, maybe, probably not, yes etc with no consensus.

We are...in absolutely no position now based on our primitive understanding of the mind and consciousness, to say with any confidence if free will does or does not exist.

Baroness Susan Greenfield would disagree with you.

Of course, she wouldn't do it here as she hates social media ;-)

Baroness Susan Greenfield is but one person...she is not neuroscience.

Two summers ago I read a dozen books on free will by the most prominent neuroscientists and/or philosophers. It was a very enlightening and fun experience. I can confidently say there is nothing even close to a consensus on the issue and we still live very much in the dark ages on theory of mind, consciousness and free will.

If you like...I can give you a list of the books and articles. Very fun to read these.

I'd love to see that list.

I agree - Susan Greenfield isn't neuroscience - I usually refer to her as the Tabloid Neuroscientist as she jumps onto every passing bandwagon ...


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